Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
Why can someone draw or sing while the others cannot? There is a rather interesting answer to the question "Why do fish swim and birds fly?". Because the fish do not have wings, and the birds do not have fins. Well, it sounds logical. Different strokes for different folks... But when you see the beautiful works of talented artists, the same question becomes relevant again. The same is true for the works of Jabrayil Guliyev. You can watch them for hours. What is so fascinating in them? Visual associations! His works are particularly appealing thanks to the abundance of sandy hues: warm and cool, drifting and floating! And in the background, one can feel the beaches of Absheron, the dachas of the Soviet era, a sense of a lazily blowing wet breeze... Why does he work with the same colours? Shades of sand colour alternating with shades of brown... It turns out that the paintings are made with wood, not paints. Real natural wood! This unique artistic technique is known as intarsia.
Drawing with wood
Originated in the ancient Egypt, intarsia developed during the Renaissance in Greece and Rome. Initially, the drawings made with wood appeared in the ancient Egypt. Since the Nile Valley is not rich in wood, all valuable timber was imported from other countries. Therefore, wooden products were luxury items. Wood with beautiful texture and unusual colours was used for inlaid wood products along with ivory, precious metals and stones. Ancient Greek and Roman masters have added new techniques to the art of intarsia: to change the colour of wood, they used oil, alum, boiling in paint. Handcrafted items from cypress and cedar were highly ornamented with pieces of boxwood, maple, holly, and cornelian cherry. However, the intarsia reached its peak during the Renaissance. It has developed into a separate kind of applied art different from incrustation in that it uses an array of wood products as a background for mosaic ornaments. At the same time, the rites of this amazing art has developed: ornamental compositions with multi-coloured urban streets, as well as historical and everyday scenes have added complexity to the technique. The narratives of drawings were notable for various techniques such as engraving, etching, baking, and carving. Quite often, mosaic sets were as good as paintings.
Praising the Motherland
Azerbaijani artists rarely use intarsia in their works. Thus, Jabrayil Guliyev is a pioneer and the only one who applies this technique. His works are praising the homeland, its people, and the environment he has grown in. It is an integral part of his life, his creative and human destiny. But it was not easy to develop these skills. He grew up in a large family and began to work while studying at the Azim Azimzadeh Art School. After returning from the military service, Jabrayil was admitted to the Sculpting Department of the University of Culture and Arts. Apart from being creatively pleasant, his profession was not profitable at all considering that he was married and had children by that time. Jabrayil left for Moscow and lived there for some time using his professional skills as an artist mainly in the construction of mansions on Rublyovka. It was at this time that he first learned about the art on wood. Once he saw a piece of wood on the ground and picked it up. The artist's eye immediately noticed the unusual drawing-like texture inlaid by the nature itself! The result of this unexpected acquaintance is now hanging on one of the walls in his workshop. It depicts a piece of nature: large trees, a fence, and two haystacks under slight twilight, as before the rain. You can feel weary waiting in the air... That is how the idea to transform a wood texture to a piece of art that can well be on a par with the works of painters and sculptors using clay and other materials was born in Jabrayil’s mind. Wood is a magical natural material providing the artist with a palette necessary to express his thoughts and the state of the soul.
Back at home
Returning home, Jabrail did not forget his discovery. He was obsessively looking for ways to master this technique. He had to go through trials and errors. He did not even suspect that everything had already been found and mastered centuries ago. He did not hesitate to talk about his obsession with his colleagues and art historians, who had helped him a lot. The secretary of the Union of Artists, art critic Ophelia-khanim listened to Jabrayil and told him about the technique of intarsia. This greatly accelerated the process of mastering the unusual technique. Jabrail Guliyev has created his paintings using intarsia for fifteen years so far.
"In fact, natural materials have always attracted me. Anything created by the nature is alive and present. It has its own life. Such materials diffuse positive energy," says Jabrayil.
It is so true. One can watch his works for a long time. They attract like a magnet. Then you get a sense of fascinating harmony! It seems that the author lives in harmony with himself and the surrounding world. There is no internal destructive tearing, no protest against reality so noticeable in the works of many contemporary artists trying to infuse the spectators with the problems related to their own discrepancies with the surrounding world.
Which tree species do you prefer to work with?
Different. Trees are amazing and unique! Each piece of wood has its own colour and strength. There are darker and lighter shades. For instance, Karelian birch is full of light colours. African wenge has a dark colour, the smoketree growing in Oghuz has golden hues. Beech has many varieties and shades.
Do you work with the wood of domestic trees only?
No, not only. My friends bring me various types of wood from abroad. But there are some species that grow only in Azerbaijan and nowhere else. For example, zelkova grows only in Lankaran.
Jabrayil’s works focus on various plots. Each one of them has its own drama and authentic techniques. Following the direction of the wood fibres and using the contrasting wood shades (from light, almost white to dark brown and almost black) and texture patterns, the artist creates images that look as if they are painted. You do not even notice that the plot is depicted with tiny wood plates only. They are combined so compact that no matter how hard you look, you will not see any connecting spots. You will not see glue used to attach the plates to a plywood base either.
“The Masazir Lake”
People and the lake that provides them with salt. You can feel the conflict between them. Vortex waves pile up the surface of the water. Salt is already in the sacks. It looks wet and heavy. Strong men carry sacks dumping them in a heap. It is not just their job; it is their daily life. Day after day, year after year. And tomorrow they will come again to take the salt from the lake...
We can see a space filled with wooden blanks. These are small plates of different colours: from very light to dark brown, almost black. In the background, there is an open balcony door, through which we see a corner of the yard and some tree branches. And an incomplete picture standing in front of the door. Creative everyday life...
Conflict of time and man. Time when circumstances are stronger than a person. Time when the dusty road heated by the sun can become a salvation for children, adults, and even the animals. The road to salvation.
He creates this story repeatedly. As a small homeland, as a hearth giving harmony, pacification, and joy. In one of the works, we see a tandoor near the fence, a tree in the foreground and some fish drying in the open air. On the second canvas, there are trees, a path, steps near the fence and a closed gate. The author’s natural habitat. His harmonious world. The world, which he protects carefully.
This is also a favourite story taken from Jabrayil’s childhood. It is abundant with details that give the works a special significance: faith in the inviolability of the current moment and confidence in the future. It does not matter what exactly is depicted on the image: fish drying in open air or the belongings of a person swimming in the nearby sea.
Jabrayil Guliyev: self-portrait
He also made his self-portrait with wood plates. Surprisingly, it turned out to be very similar. Almost like a brush on the canvas. Even better. He enthusiastically spoke about the features of wood, assuring that it gives the artist unlimited opportunities.
"I use only natural colour of the wood. I do not cover the works with varnish or paints. Even when I use sawdust in my works. Natural colour are quite enough," says Jabrayil.
Then he told us about the extraordinary properties of hazelnut tree. It turns out that the tree is quite colourful – twenty shades of brown! The texture is light close to the root and darker towards the vertex. Beech is also amazing, as it has many varieties, colours and shades. The same is true for the Thai pine. She is also a wonderful material for the artist...
Jabrayil speaks enthusiastically, obsessively in love with his work. Perhaps, he could give lectures on the peculiarities of tree species and the intarsia. When we were talking, I saw a man who opened to me his world of love and devotion. Professional and humane devotion. He talked about his family and children. He is a happy man indeed. After all, he has done everything that a man has to accomplish according to his ancestral purpose: built a house, planted trees, and is raising the children. He also has a growing daughter - a clever and beautiful woman. It turns out that his paintings, which are in private collections in Europe, America, Japan and in his studio, are the result of the work of his soul – a soul of the artist who lives in complete harmony with his own "I" and the world surrounding him. What can be better than this?